Beyond the mom pooch #6
Yes, I put abdominal separation sucks as the title, because it really really does suck. It’s frustrating and takes time to heal, BUT it IS possible and I want to share with you what it is, if you may have it and how you can heal it – without any surgery!
This topic is a BIG topic, and will be a little lengthy, so if you know you have a gap in your muscles and just want the exercises and “how do I fix it” then scroll down – although – I suggest you read it all through!
The medical term is Diastasis Recti (DR) – what happens is as your belly grow and stretch to make room for that bundle of joy of yours, your “six-pack muscle” rectus abdominis opens up towards the side leaving a gap in between the two. Often this gap goes back by itself, and sometimes it takes a little – or a lot of work to close the gap.
Sometimes you can get diastasis recti because of other health problems, if you are obese etc, but most often it’s seen after your baby is born.
Many women with DR struggle with lower back pain, pelvic instability and pelvic pain as well as functional strength of your core. Often the typical “mom-pooch” is because your internal organs don’t have any support from your abdomen, so they push forward making you look pregnant still…
A while back I asked on my Facebook for mom’s who had or are still struggling with separated abs and it was surprisingly tons of my mama friends dealing with this. Many didn’t even know that they had it until the doctor pointed it out at their 6 week appointment, others were told to just to a lot of sit ups (one of the worst thing you can do) and it would go together. Others had their mind-set that nothing they would do could close the gap unless they had surgery – and many went for closing the gap through surgery route – that actually do not strengthen the muscle and just “slaps” a band-aid on it making it “look” normal, but most times your core is still not working the way it should…
When I recently asked around on my Facebook page I was surprised with some of the responses, here are some of the real mom answers I got;
“My OB/GYN showed me at my 6 week check up – I felt pretty chocked. It was a huge “hole” that I hadn’t seen before. She told me to do sit ups – so I started working on that and it didn’t help, it made it worse. -Karin.”
“I never noticed a gap during pregnancy, but during my 6 week postpartum visit, my midwife pointed it out to me. She wasn’t really knowledgeable about exercises suggested planks, crunches, etc!!! I think the biggest way it’s effected me, is that I used to work out all the time!! About 6 times a week, I really loved it, so great for me mentally. But now there’s a lot I don’t do if I take a class, because I’m unsure, and I really never get to workout anymore, so I definitely am not maximizing when i go.-Meghan”
“Yes, I have it and it sucks. It will only go together with surgery I’ve been told – Nicole”
One thing ALL the mom’s had in common that I asked, was that they felt very frustrated. Some couldn’t work out a lot any more since they didn’t have any support in their midsection, and most felt at loss with what to do – they were scared to make it worse so they just didn’t do anything at all.
So I set myself on a mission to educate myself as much as I could – because I KNOW there are ways to heal it with (a lot of) patience and the right exercises.
But let’s back track some to knowing if and how you have diastasis recti? The simple answer is; IF you have over a 2 cm width between your rectus abdominis (your ‘6pack muscle.”) you probably have it. Remember, your belly will need to heal after pregnancy, so do not “test” this too soon and freak out because MOST women will heal on their own with rest.
BUT; you can test this with your fingers as you lay down on the ground with your knees bent, place one hand behind your head lifting it up slightly, do not look forward, keep your chin up. If you can fit more than 2-2 1/2 fingers between your muscles right above your belly button when you contract your muscles with your other hand – chances are you have it.
You may sometimes also see a wide line along the length of your midline.
It’s very common, so don’t freak out if you do feel a gap. You CAN fix it.
Hopefully your ob/gyn will help you with this at your 6week appointment, but I’ve noticed that this varies, and if they do notice it many don’t have any exact help to close the gap – so if you are thinking you may have this, talk to your doctor as soon as possible so you can get help. There are pelvic floor experts, physical therapy etc that you can get help with!
You may be ready to go full force with your work outs after 6 weeks, but make sure you take it slowly and don’t over do it as this can make it worse.
Avoid core exercises like crunches, leg raises, and sit ups, and anything where your belly “cones up” as you contract them or “rotating” movements.
IF you are pregnant there are some things you can think about during your pregnancy!
Again, avoid crunches and sit ups, leg raises or any moves that makes the belly “cone” up or making your belly button feel weird.
Even though my core was pretty strong before I got pregnant, I quickly realized that my belly felt “weird” early on in my work outs with my 4th pregnancy, my belly button would “pop out” and be sore so I’ve been avoiding MOST core work since I was in week 14-15ish…
If you have a separation in your abs, it’s time to work smarter and give you some extra time to heal.
Here are a 6 exercises you CAN do to help heal your DR.
1. Focus on your breathing and connecting your inner core muscles. Read more about how to connect your inner “corset” muscles HERE.
You need to relearn how to connect your muscles again.
2. KEGELS. Seriously ladies, just squeeze! READ MORE HERE. Oddly enough as it may seem, your core is connected to your core. A strong pelvic floor with help with strong TVA muscles that are your body’s natural corset.
3. HEEL SLIDES. Lie on your back with both knees bent, feet flat. Breath out as you engage and tighten your core and pelvic floor. Slide one heel slowly along the ground until your leg is straight. Inhale and relax, then engage your core, exhale, and draw that heel back.
4. TOE TAPS. Lay with your back flat in the ground, bend your legs and keep your legs in a 90 degree angle. “Pull your abs in” and alternate “tapping” your toe in the floor in a slow movement. You can start just going half way down to the floor if needed.
5. ARM REACHES. Stand on all 4 with a straight back. Engage your core “pulling your belly button up in towards your spine.” Now alternate slowly raising one of you arms straight out in front of you. Stop about shoulder height.
6. HIP RAISES. Lay down on your mat with your knees bent. Now we are going to engage your core, and then lift your hips, squeezing your glutes and core hold for 1-2 seconds then slowly come down again to the mat and repeat.
If you need help and/or support – reach out in my Toned Mamas Online Tribe group to get other women’s suggestions and support. Or you can always e-mail me!
I hope this helped you out so you know what to keep an eye out for so you can FEEL your best again after baby.